Return of the Young Worker

by Erik Knoder

February 24, 2017

Economists (at least this one) and community leaders were concerned during the recession about the steep drop in labor force participation of youth, especially those ages 14 to 18. Participation may still be low by historic standards, but it has increased a bit from 2010 through 2015.

The increase in youth employment is part of the increase in overall employment as the Northwest Oregon continues to recover from the Great Recession. Most counties in Northwest Oregon – Benton, Clatsop, Columbia, Lincoln, and Tillamook – saw their payroll employment bottom out in 2011 or 2012. This was also the low point for youth employment. Since then, the share of youth working has increased in every county.

Note that this is the percentage of the youth population that is working. The actual number of youth employed has changed very little in most counties, although it has gone up. The increase is typically just a dozen or so additional youth employed, except that Clatsop County saw an increase of 82 youth employed. The main change has been the continued decline in the population of people ages 14 to 18. Only Columbia County had an increase in its youth population over the years from 2010 through 2015.

These data on population and employment come from U.S. Census Bureau estimates. It is probable that there is some degree of error in the estimates, but it is encouraging that the trend in all counties is that relatively more youth are engaging in the world of work.

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